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July 29, 2011 permalink
An article favorable to same-sex families shows why children's aid is the only practical source of babies for gay couples to adopt. Most foreign countries block same-sex couples from adopting children and the article claims the Hague convention is another obstacle.
When gay men adopt
When my husband Andrew and I started dating over eight years ago, we often discussed having kids. Both of us grew up in family-oriented households and wanted to continue that tradition. But we agreed to wait until we turned 30, so we could be better prepared.
That decision also postponed the daunting task of finding out how two men could even become parents.
We’d heard about surrogacy, but didn’t know how it worked. The only gay men we’d seen adopt were on documentaries or fictional programs. So last summer we signed up for the Daddies and Papas 2B course at The 519 Church Street Community Centre, so we could learn as much as we can about the different options.
In its eighth year, the course has delivered 18 sessions for gay, bisexual and queer men. Out of over 350 graduates, an estimated 30 per cent are now parents.
We were inspired by the grads-turned-parents who shared their journeys with our class. After I came out in 1995, at 14, the possibility of getting married to a man, let alone starting a family, was unfathomable. I was blessed with loving parents, but I often wondered if I disappointed them; there was an unspoken belief that our family name would end with my generation.
Daddies and Papas 2B facilitator Chris Veldhoven echoes this sentiment. “In the early days of the course, some guys were in shock – a few older men, in their 50s, 60s, 70s, were amazed this topic was even being presented. Back in the day, they were taught that it was either come out or stay closeted and have kids.”
But thankfully, times – and laws – do change. He says younger men are now signing up and that they seem empowered in the process. “We’re seeing more visibility of gay dads and their families, and greater public discussion around the parenting realities of and possibilities for LGBTQ people.”
After learning about adoption, surrogacy and co-parenting (where parental responsibilities is shared between individuals or families), Andrew and I decided to pursue adoption. Not only does it seem the most straightforward to us, but we believe there are many local children who need safe, stable and loving homes.
Ontario became the first province to allow same-sex people to adopt as individuals in May 1995, and then as couples in 2000. There are three different ways to adopt, two of which are options for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered Queer (LGBTQ) people: public and private adoption.
International adoption is not an option for out LGBTQ couples and individuals, because of discriminatory policies in other countries. In the past, the US had been a destination for Canadian LGBTQ people looking to adopt. But the enforcement of the Hague Convention in 2008 has made it nearly impossible, because emphasis is now placed on securing domestic adoption.
Opponents to LGBTQ adoption argue that children should be raised in traditional families consisting of a mother and father, and that same-sex parents will confuse children. Supporters like the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), the largest public adoption organization in Canada, says this is simply not true.
Catherine Snoddon, a spokesperson for CAS Toronto, says that same sex parents have the same potential to be good parents as anyone. Since 1995, the organization has matched 115 children with LGBTQ parents. “At the heart, our philosophy around adoption is what is best for the child and whether they possess the components to be a good parent. These are qualities that can be found in many people, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
John Hart and Rodney Osinga adopted through CAS Toronto. In July 2008, they were matched with Anthony, now three and a half. This May, they welcomed Anna, now 10 months old. Through their journey, they met and formed a close friendship with a lesbian couple who adopted Anthony’s older brother. “It’s wonderful to have our big family and it doesn’t have to be blood connected. It’s based on love,” says Hart, 38.
Hart and Osinga say they feel it’s important to foster a safe and inclusive community for their kids. “We have other same sex couple friends and their children know our children, so they won’t grow up knowing any different other than having a Daddy and a Papa. It’s not going to be out of the ordinary for them,” says Hart, who goes by “Daddy” and Osinga, 40, who answers to “Papa.” They are also part of a gay dad’s group, attend the 519’s Saturday LGBTQ family drop-in program, and last summer, organized a weekly picnic for other dads.
While children may face bullying for having LGBTQ parents, Snoddon says their parents are well equipped to handle the problem. “They’ve often experienced bullying themselves and are in a good position to talk to their child to advocate for themselves and to reach out for support if needed.”
Living in a neighbourhood with an inclusive school has been important for Terence Van Leeuwen, 42 and Pat D’urzo, 43, who adopted their two daughters through CAS Toronto in April 2010. Their eldest daughter, age five, is in kindergarten. “The school is spectacular,” says Van Leeuwen. “There are teachers who are gay and have their own children. On her first day of school, her class was asked to bring in a picture of their family and it’s posted on the wall. So there’s no difference between one family to the next.”
Maintaining relationships with birth parents, if circumstances allow, can also help families with adopted children. Van Leeuwen and D’urzo help their daughters stay in touch with their mother. “We honour that relationship and talk about her often and openly and lovingly,” says D’urzo. “This past Mother’s Day, we made her a card. We’re lucky that she has their best interests in mind.”
Private adoption by LGBTQ parents has also increased, according to Noelle Burke, a social worker at the Adoption Council of Ontario. “More prospective parents, given the generation they grew up in, are open to choosing a same-sex couple to parent their child,” she says.
Just like there is much work to be done around global LGBTQ issues, Veldhoven says much is yet to be done around international adoption. He’d also like more representation in children’s media. “Our families are yearning for children’s TV shows and movies where we are not only included, but are in fact the main characters.”
Like the adoptive dads we know, Andrew and I feel fortunate to live in a place with progressive LGBTQ rights. This is right where we want to be if, given the opportunity, we get to raise a family of our own. This is right where we want to be when – and if – we get to raise a family of our own.
We’re in early stages of this unconventional road to parenthood, and as prepared as we can be. We’ve been told it could take a few years to find a match. This could happen quicker, take longer, or never happen at all. If that looks to be the case, we’ll re-evaluate our options.
Attending The 519 course and the 27-hour Parent Resources Information and Development Education (PRIDE) training that all prospective adoptive parents must take, has been rewarding. It’s allowed us to reflect on why we want to be parents and opened our eyes to the rewards and challenges that lie ahead.
Osinga sums up the joys and trials of parenting eloquently: “Someone once told me that kids will bring out the best and worst in you. It’s true. Sometimes I ask, ‘How is this child making me so angry?’ But then they can melt your heart in a second. I’ve never felt that before. It’s amazing.” As if on cue, their cranky baby Anna stops crying, looks at me, and giggles.
Source: Partne Central (Toronto Star)